The Hunt

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  Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at Download by:  [University of Warwick] Date:  04 December 2017, At: 06:21 Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory ISSN: 0740-770X (Print) 1748-5819 (Online) Journal homepage: The hunt Mahasweta Devi To cite this article:  Mahasweta Devi (1990) The hunt, Women & Performance: a journal of feministtheory, 5:1, 61-79, DOI: 10.1080/07407709008571141 To link to this article: Published online: 03 Jun 2008.Submit your article to this journal Article views: 72View related articles  61  h unt  y Mahasweta DeviTranslated by Gayatri Spivak T he place is on the Gomo-Daltonganj line. Trains stopped atthis station once upon a time. The expense of having trainsstop was perhaps too much. Now one sees a stray cow or a goatin the station room, in the residential quarters and the porter's shan-ties. The board says Kuruda Outstation, Abandoned. Arrived herethe train slows. It gasps as it climbs. It climbs Kuruda Hill bit by bitright from here. It is a low hill. After a while the train enters a ravine.On both sides of the half-mile ravine there are blasted stones. There's abamboo thicket on the hill, and occasionally the bamboo bends in thewind and hits the train. Then the train descends and it gathers speed.Now the station is Tohri. The busiest station in this area. The junctionof many bus routes. Tohri is also a coal halt. The train picks up coal.There are surface collieries all around. In these parts lowgrade coal isto be found almost above ground. But Tohri's real benefactors are thetimber brokers. It is a Sal-growing area. Sal-logs arrive night and dayby truck. They are split in timberyards and sent in every direction.Tohri's bustle is an experience after the silence of Kuruda.It is an experience to watch the train move on the hilltop from distantvillages. The villagers see this every day, yet their amazement neverends. The train goes on, the engine gasps; now the ravine swallows thetrain. If you run you can see where it will spit it out. There were someelephants seen one day at the top of the hill. The elephants stopped asthey ate the bamboo. From a distance they looked like toy elephants.After the train passed on they ran off trumpeting, trunks raised.The village of Kuruda is a good way behind the station. There are twohills, one beyond the wide meadow. If it had been a bit closer the villa-gers might have started living in the abandoned brickbuilt house.For people who live in the villages like Kuruda, life holds few breaksother than annual feastdays. So their eyes are charmed by the scenes ontop of Kuruda Hill.When Mary Oraon comes up, she looks at the train, as the passengerslook at her if they see her. Eighteen years old, tall, flat-featured, light    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   W  a  r  w   i  c   k   ]  a   t   0   6  :   2   1   0   4   D  e  c  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   7  62 /  Devi copper skin. Usually she wears a print sari. As she looks at the train,so the passengers look at her if she catches their eye. At a distance shelooks most seductive, but up close you see a strong message of rejectionin her glance.You wouldn't call her a tribal at first sight. Yet she is a tribal. Once upona time whites had timber plantations in Kuruda. They left graduallyafter Independence. Mary's mother looked after the Dixons' bungalowand household. Dixon's son came back in 1959 and sold the house, theforest, everything else. He put Mary in Bhikni's womb before he left.He went to Australia. The padre at the local church christened herMary. Bhikni was still a Christian. But when Prasadji from Ranchi cameto live in the Dixon bungalow and refused to employ Bhikni, she gaveup Christianity. Mary pastures the Prasads' cattle. She is a most capablecowherd. She also sells custard apple and guava from the Prasad'sorchards, driving terrifically hard bargains with the Kunjaras, thewholesale fruit buyers. She takes the train to Tohri with vegetables fromthe field.Everyone says Prasadji is most fortunate. He pays Bhikni a wage. WithMary the agreement is for board and lodging, clothing and sundries.The Dixon bungalow was built as a residence for whites. Bhikni saysthe whites kept twelve ayahs-servants-sweepers. Under Prasadji Maryalone keeps the huge bungalow clean.Mary has countless admirers at Tohri market. She gets down at thestation like a queen. She sits in her own rightful place at the market.She gets smokes from the other marketeers, drinks tea and chews betelleaf at their expense, but encourages no one. Jalim, the leader of themarketeers and a sharp lad, is her lover. They will marry when either'ssavings reach a hundred rupees.She has let Jalim approach her on the promise of marriage. Daughterof an Oraon mother, she looks different, and she is also exceptionallytall. So she couldn't find a boy of her own kind. The color of Mary'sskin is a resistant barrier to young Oraon men. Mrs. Prasad had lookedfor a match. Their gardener's son. She had said, you can stay on thecompound.Bhikni was ecstatic. Mary said, No. Mistress Mother has said it to keepher worker captive.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   W  a  r  w   i  c   k   ]  a   t   0   6  :   2   1   0   4   D  e  c  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   7  The Hunt 1 63—She will give shelter.—A shack.—He's a good boy. —No.  Living in a shack, eating mush, the man drinking, no soap or oil,no clean clothes. I don't want such a life.Mary was unwilling. She is accepted in the village society. The womenare her friends, she is the best dancer at the feasts. But that doesn'tmean she wants to live their life.Man men had wanted to be her lover. Mary had lifted her machete.They are outsiders. Who can tell that they wouldn't leave her, likeBhikni with a baby in her belly?There was a fight over her once in Tohri market. Ratan Singh, the driverof a timber truck, had got drunk and tried to carry her off. It was thenthat Jalim had cut in and hit Ratan Singh. It was after that that Marywas seen selling vegetables or peanuts or corn sitting beside Jalim. Shehas never been to his room. No, marriage first. Jalim respects thisgreatly. Yes, there is something true in Mary, the power of Australianblood.There is distrust in Mary somewhere. She doesn't trust even Jalim fully.Even the marketeers of Tohri know that they'll marry as soon as thereis a hundred rupees. Jalim's version is that he himself will save thosehundred rupees. It will be good if Mary brings something  herself.  Soshe has left to Jalim the responsibility of saving money. It's not easy forJalim. He has his parents, brothers, and sisters in the village. Here he'llhave to rent a place, buy pots and pans. He won't be able to carry allthe expenses. And he wants to give Mary clothes, the odd cake of soap.Mary gave him the first present. A colored cotton vest.—Your gift?Jalim is delighted. —No.  Your wife sent it.After that Jalim gave her presents now and then. Mary doesn't wearthose clothes. She'll wear them after the wedding.    D  o  w  n   l  o  a   d  e   d   b  y   [   U  n   i  v  e  r  s   i   t  y  o   f   W  a  r  w   i  c   k   ]  a   t   0   6  :   2   1   0   4   D  e  c  e  m   b  e  r   2   0   1   7
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